75km Round Lantau Swim:
It’s not about the Swim
After 8 Ironman and hundreds of other races, I thought I had seen it all: pre-race jitters, doubt, fear, the knots in the stomach and the throat, the dry mouth… but also the bout of overconfidence, cockiness, mixed with a touch of aggressiveness, as the testosterone boils inside my body.
But today is different. I am in the present moment. It is 9:30 pm and I still have work to do, some related to the preparation of the swim but also some non related to it, as unfortunately the World has not stopped functioning to give us a breather. I feel oddly relaxed, I am doing what I have to do, with acuteness and efficiency, with my mind here with me, not projecting into a tomorrow that is not here yet, and which would turn out to be different from all the scenarios I could imagine, as it ALWAYS does.
An outsider may consider me as an unconscious person, about to risk my life for 5 days and looking like I’m chilling out in flip flops and shorts, enjoying my fruit shake at a terrace. Weather forecast says “Force 6 wind tomorrow” ? Not moved at all. What does it mean ? Force 6 in what direction ? How far from the shore ? There will be swell, so what ? We’re trained for this. And if it is too hard, we’ll assess the situation on the spot and decide. How much energy would I lose trying to figure out what to do if X and Y happens ? I spent my whole my career in risk management, and I know being a control freak leads to failure at some stage, and eventually burn out if one refuses to evolve. So why on Earth would I worry ? Assuming there is a problem, if we can fix it, we will; if we cannot, we won’t: worrying does not do any good.
I guess the question is: why am I like this, TODAY ? Well, first of all, it is not a race. For the first time of my life, I can honestly say: “I just want to finish”. Let’s be frank, to those who may have heard me say in the past that finish is my goal, here is the truth: I was shamelessly lying. It has never been about finishing, it has always be about beating the others, being the fastest I can be, proving to myself that I am not ageing, and so on. But finishing has never been of any interest in itself.
This time, though, it IS all about the adventure. It is closer to a trekking, where you can decide to take it easy and meditate along the way, take countless pictures, or rush to the picnic stop and sleeping bag, because you feel like it. It is about sharing moments with the team who has been working so hard, seeing the kids doing beach clean-ups at the beaches where we will stop, making friends with our kayak supporters, all volunteers, all helping out for a common cause.
Here it is, the word is out: I am like this because this time, it is not about my egotic mind foolishly chasing self-satisfaction, it is about a noble cause. If our oceans die, we all die. If I swim in it, I may remove one plastic bottle or two, if they happen to be on my way while I swim, and it won’t change the course of history -I know. However, if I contribute to raise awareness of a couple of hundreds kids about the necessity to use plastic sparingly and be more conscious of the environment, and if these kids do the same, that’s may be different story, eventually.
Raising awareness of those who will make our future… the moments of misery that we will go through during our 75k journey (as there WILL be misery) sound quite insignificant in comparison. It is really not about the swim.
So why would I worry tonight ?
I am a reformed banker, proud father of two and professional endurance coach offering tailor-made training plans and specific guidance on all triathlon and endurance sports topics.